Saturday, January 18, 2020

The Gospel and our LGBT Brothers and Sisters

I have neglected writing this for far too long. I guess part of the reason was that I did not want to alienate the part of my readership that could see the validity of my paradigm shift and begin to adopt it in small ways. However, it needs to be said and so I will write it down for you all to digest, accept or reject. If I lose you I will lose you and pray that God will grant you the light to recover from the darkness of so much error in evangelical doctrine.

Let me state up front that I do not believe that God who is described as love would torture people for eternity. I know for certain that doctrine is from a faulty, erroneous view of scripture and completely false and erroneous presuppositions. But, bear with me a moment in my next assertion. If... there was eternal torture that is encapsulated in the doctrine of hell... notice I say IF... I know that there would be a ton of so called Christians that have said the sinner's prayer, attend church and Sunday School every Sunday, claim to love Jesus, teach and evangelize who would be in hell... and, I know a ton of LGBT brothers and sisters that would be in heaven. In fact, some of the most loving Christians I know are part of the LGBT community.

First of all, if one reads Romans 1:18-32 carefully, it becomes apparent that Paul is speaking of the downward spiral of humanity. He begins it with Garden of Eden imagery, "claiming to be wise they became fools" The first step on the downward cycle was heterosexual relationships. The next step down was same sex relationships. The third and final step of the downward plunge was acts/deeds which among many was gossip (think of little old church mothers.) The point of Paul's passage was that ALL people were without excuse and needed God's grace, most of all the religious.

It is sometimes easy to forget that God was in Christ, reconciling the WORLD to Himself not counting trespasses. The world most certainly includes our LGBT brothers and sisters. Contrary to popular belief it says reconciling the world! It does not say reconciling those who have said the sinners prayer. Now there is great benefit in accepting the redemption that Jesus provided, but it is accepted by apprehending the gospel of grace and resting in it completely.

So many of my LBGT friends are either monogamous or celebrate. They love their fellow man. They contribute to causes that help the poor, fatherless, homeless, and/or needy. They live normal productive lives. In exchange for that they reap the ire, condemnation, and harassment from much of evangelical Christianity. Again, some of evangelical doctrine and dogma is an affront to what the scripture really teaches when one discovers the truth that it is a redemptive narrative and not a legal constitutional operation manual for Christian living.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Immanuel: God with us!

Isa 7:14 NRSV  "Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel."

Early this morning as I was taking my son to work on Christmas morning I received a glorious illumination. It began with a gorgeous sunrise. The sky ways beautiful. It was a mixture of bright orange, soft yellows and pale blue. And, I almost jokingly, said Happy Birthday Jesus. It was then that the Spirit spoke to me and told me the absolute significance of Christmas. I know, December 25th is likely not Jesus birthday. I know, it is a pagan holiday converted by the early Christian church. However, the Spirit told me that the important thing was that He was born of flesh and blood. So from now on, I will realize that Christmas stands as a proof that God is with us.

In the above verse from Isaiah, the promise is given that the birth of the son is a sign from the Lord himself. The name given is significant. Immanuel means "God with us." Yes, God has shared in humanity, and in doing so, has proven that He is with us. Further, we realize that he is with us via His Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ. There is deeper significance with this fact. This is a sign for all of humanity. It shows that we are eternal beings, proven by the resurrection, and it lets us know that God has never left us and certainly has not forsaken us.

It signifies the day that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself and not counting our trespasses/sins. It signifies the day that proclaims this fact. In the reconciliation comes peace with the Father and the restoration of all that was given away in the garden by our first parents. We are now again naked before God but loved with an unfathomable love. We can walk and talk with Him in the coolness of the day/evening, and he is with us in the extreme heat of any moment. Let me repeat. He has not left us even once, and He will never forsake us.

With all the commercialization of the day, and with all the criticism of the day by many I can now fully embrace the significance of the event. It does not have to be a day when much of America spends more than they can afford. It does not have to be a day of regret and disappointment for some. Rather, it is the day that God proved that he is among us and I will proclaim with the angels, "peace on earth and good will to humanity!"

Friday, November 29, 2019

Your Black Friday Bonus; The blessings of Deu 28

Listed below are all the blessings that go along with being the SEED of Abraham. You are obedient when you believe that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself. You are obedient when you trust in the faithfulness of Jesus and believe that his righteousness before the Father is yours because of his death, burial, and resurrection. This understanding will well up in your heart and cause a great love for the Father that will in turn transform you.

Jesus absorbed and absolved the curses of Deuteronomy 28 when he was crucified and because of his acceptance by the Father all of the promises of Deuteronomy 28, and not only that, but ALL the promises to Abraham and his SEED are yours by virtue of the faithfulness of Jesus Christ, the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world or in other words from creation forward.

Declare these words over yourself today and be the voice of God proclaiming them as he has whispered this to you to shout from the rooftops.
  • Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the field.  
  • Blessed shall be the fruit of your womb, the fruit of your ground, and the fruit of your livestock, both the increase of your cattle and the issue of your flock.  
  • Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl.  
  • Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out.  
  • The LORD will cause your enemies who rise against you to be defeated before you; they shall come out against you one way, and flee before you seven ways.  
  • The LORD will command the blessing upon you in your barns, and in all that you undertake; he will bless you in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.  
  • The LORD will establish you as his holy people, as he has sworn to you
  • All the peoples of the earth shall see that you are called by the name of the LORD, and they shall be afraid of you.  
  • The LORD will make you abound in prosperity, in the fruit of your womb, in the fruit of your livestock, and in the fruit of your ground in the land that the LORD swore to your ancestors to give you.  
  • The LORD will open for you his rich storehouse, the heavens, to give the rain of your land in its season and to bless all your undertakings. You will lend to many nations, but you will not borrow.  
  • The LORD will make you the head, and not the tail; you shall be only at the top, and not at the bottom

Monday, November 25, 2019

The Damage of the Holiness Movement

Eph 4:24 NRSV  "and to clothe yourselves with the new self, created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness."

I begin with this passage from Ephesians that speaks of the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. Here are a couple of observations about this passage. First, when Paul mentions TRUE righteousness and holiness, he is suggesting that there is FALSE righteousness and holiness.  Secondly, he mentions in the likeness of God. Since John stated in his first epistle that God is love/agape, then TRUE righteousness and holiness, is centered in love/agape.

I think it is instructive to also cite a passage for Paul in Romans. Rom 10:2-3 NRSV  "I can testify that they have a zeal for God, but it is not enlightened.  (3)  For, being ignorant of the righteousness that comes from God, and seeking to establish their own, they have not submitted to God's righteousness." Here we are allowed a glimpse of false righteousness and holiness. It is indeed self righteousness and self imposed holiness. Herein lies the erroneous damage that is perpetuated by the holiness movement.  I think it is important in this instance to name names. From my experience, the groups that are most guilty of this are the Church of God in Christ (COGIC,) and the many independent assemblies that have broken off from this movement for one reason or another. The Church of God, the Assemblies of God, Full Gospel Churches, and the Oneness Pentecostals are very similar and equally damaging. All of these denominations insist on self righteousness and self holiness.

The above mentioned denominations are the most cult like. They all tend to add to the gospel of grace by demanding that behavior and adherence to regulations are proof of real conversion. In one way or another all of the above groups actively promote spiritual abuse. I have heard stories of individuals who as children were severely beaten because they did not properly embrace the hard legalistic line of these churches. They operate mostly on fear and shame. If one does not line up completely with what they deem to be scriptural mandate they are shamed, shun, or punished in some way. For the most part, they give lip service to love because they know that it is a command but in reality have no conception of what love is especially agape, the love of God.

Moreover, these denominations erroneously interpret scripture in the most literal terms. They operate with the premise that the bible was written precisely to them and their current culture and generation, and are not interested at all in historical, grammatical, or cultural context. The truth of the matter could not be more different than this. Further, they look at the scripture in the most legal, constitutional way and see it as a life manual that must always be obeyed to the literal letter. The wooden operational manual approach to scripture was not taught at all by the first century followers of Christ. As I continue in this vane over other posts I will include denominations and assemblies that do not embrace the spiritual aspects of Pentecostalism yet demand strict adherence to the literal aspect of scripture because of their stance they call Lordship. These assemblies are equally damaging.

Back to the holiness movement. I have heard of an assembly that ended up shunning their pastor of many years because he got cancer and they claimed that he gave into it because of lack of faith. In otherwords, he admitted the diagnosis, and thereby doomed himself to cancer. One could write an entire book with stories like this. It is common for people to be blamed for illness because of lack of faith. This exemplifies how sinister the holiness movement can be, and how abusive it is toward its adherents.

Let's take a minute to unpack true righteousness and holiness. We know from the multitude of Paul's writings that it is not self righteousness. First off, there is a connotation that is used mostly within evangelical Christianity to the word holy/holiness that is not compatible with the meaning of holy/qadosh. In the Old Testament; the Jewish meaning was set apart for a special purpose. God wanted Israel to be a people set apart unto Him and separated from the rest of the world. It did not mean pious or having piety. So holy would mean set apart and not obedient to law. In fact, God told the Israelites that obeying the commandments would be righteousness to them not their holiness. Further, there is a direct relationship between holy and sanctified. To Israel under the Old Covenant sanctification was ritual washing again set apart for a purpose.

Since most of the apostles of the first century were Jewish, and all who wrote the letters of the New Testament were Jewish, one can safely assume that they held to the Jewish meaning of holy when they used it in their writings. This completely negates the use of the holiness church in their meaning of holy. The see it as super pious and obedient, and quite frankly they are just plain wrong! While I admit that some of the use of holy in the New Testament was meant to set apart the behavior of the saints from the rest of the world, they did not mean to use it in a legal constitutional way. They meant for it to be understood in light of grace being the transforming force that produces love in each individual based on total forgiveness and acceptance of them by God, and that Jesus redeemed them from all... past, present, and future sin once for all time.

The first century saints were set apart by the gospel message that was proclaimed often too them as they assembled. They strove to be more godly based on their understanding of forgiveness and grace and not on the understanding of commandments and law. While the commandments and law were informative of godliness it was never used as a measure of their salvation, redemption and reconcillation. I am convinced that the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, and the law of sin and death written about by Paul in Romans eight was the same law with a different application. It was the law of sin and death because of the weakness of flesh when viewing Deut 6:25 righteousness, and it was the law of the Spirit of life when viewed with a Romans 8:1 understanding.

Let me emphasize... you cannot beat righteousness/holiness into someone, you cannot shame someone into being righteous/holy, and you cannot shun someone to make them righteous/holy. You can only proclaim the gospel of God's grace over and over often, and allow the gospel message used by the Holy Spirit to cause love for God to well up in the individual, and this anointed love will cause a person to want to be ever and ever more godly. To be successful, it requires a community to practice this and the holiness movement has failed miserably, and instead has had the opposite effect.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Paul's prayer for the saints; "to be filled with the fullness of God."

Eph 3:14-21 NRSV  For this reason I bow my knees before the Father,  (15)  from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name.  (16)  I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit,  (17)  and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love.  (18)  I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth,  (19)  and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.  (20)  Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine,  (21)  to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Ephesians is such an important letter in Paul's repetoire. It more clearly than any other book in scripture presents the absolute sovereignty of God in redemption, salvation, and reconciliation. Of first importance is the fact that God chose "us" in Christ before the foundation of the world. I have emphasized this fact over and over on this blog as it shows that God's purpose in creation was redemption. He goes on a few verses later to explain that it is to the praise of God's glorious grace. God wants to be praised for his grace. Why? Because He in His infinite wisdom and knowledge understands that it is His glorious grace that will supernaturally promote love for Him in our inner being. The mode He uses for this is the power of His Holy Spirit that indwells the believer to reinforce the truth of his grace and the good news concerning it.

Paul's prayer, posted above, asks God to give us saints the power to comprehend the breadth, length, height, and depth of Christ's love for us. It is in this comprehension that we will be filled with the fullness of God. Being filled with the fullness of God means being filled with the fullness of His Holy Spirit. I find it interesting that Paul states that it is a knowing that surpasses knowledge; to know beyond knowledge, what can that mean? It is a knowing that exists within every fiber of being and not just in the intellect. That my friend is the fullness of God. When we hear the gospel of God's grace, the Holy Spirit enables us to know the love of Christ beyond knowledge. It becomes who we are! As I sit here writing this I am filled with this fullness and overwhelmed and overjoyed with the peace that it brings.

It is so easy to forget it, and it can be ever so fleeting if one does not hear the gospel of grace rehearsed over and over. This once again is the reason that Paul determined to know nothing among the Corinthians, and for that matter, I believe to know nothing among all the groups he encountered in his ministry sojourn, except Jesus Christ, crucified, buried, risen, and seated at the right hand of majesty on high. It is precisely why all saints need to hear the gospel clearly articulated each and every time they assemble. Not just as an afterthought in the alter call, but as the main substance of the meeting. The reason is that it is the way in which the Holy Spirit refills our tanks so to speak. It is the gospel message and no other that fills us with the fullness of God.

Let me finish with my prayer for the saints. I pray to the Father in Glory that evangelical Christianity will be awakened from its lethargy and error, and will be certain to proclaim to all the saints at each and every meeting the gospel of God's grace that they may comprehend the love of Christ in its entirety and thereby allow that love, so rich and so freely given without condition, to transform them by being filled with the fullness of God's love, and that this love might transform their inner being into an instrument of God's love in the earth!

Monday, November 18, 2019

In all thy ways

Pro 3:5-6  Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.  (6)  In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.

You surely know by now if you regularly read this blog that the gospel of grace, the pristine gospel that turned the first century world upside down is the main focal point of what I write. The emphasis is squarely placed on the idea that imputed righteousness, and peace with Father God is crucial to the proper spiritual transformation of the saint.

Of premium importance in this idea is the concept of resting in Jesus or the Sabbath Rest. The catalyst for transformation is resting in the gospel decrees no matter what. This means that one must trust and rest and rely on the gospel of grace at ALL times. This is a place where a misinformed tenet of evangelical dogma plays a very confusing role. Evangelical doctrine and dogma have linked two thoughts from First John chapter one that are not really linked. One is fellowship with the Father and the other is being "confessed up" on all sin. The fact is that 1John 1:7 and 1John 1:9 are not symbiotic. Fellowship is not predicated on constant confession in the mind of God. He had Paul declare that He/God, was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, not imputing humanities sin, and rather that Christ, who knew no sin was made sin for humanity so that the one walking in the light of that fact would be in CONSTANT fellowship with God based on the work of Christ and not the individual. The twisted way that evangelical dogma has viewed 1John negates this most important aspect of the gospel of grace.

Of course, it is good for us to confess our sin/faults and be aware of them. However, it does not restore fellowship as it has been declared that He will NEVER leave us or forsake us. If there is a breach in fellowship it is only in the mind of the individual not resting completely in the gospel of grace as explained in great detail by Paul, and reinforced by all the first century apostles including James. This is precisely where the above quoted Proverb comes into play. It is a statement that agrees with Paul's explanation of the gospel of the kingdom which is in fact the gospel of God's grace in Christ Jesus.

To trust in the Lord with all of ones heart is to rest completely in the finished work of the cross of Christ Jesus. It is necessary to set aside ones own understanding or in other words that way which seemeth right! It does not seem right that God would declare one righteous based on the faithfulness of Jesus Christ. Our own understanding would make it so we would surely think that we must do something. The only thing that one can do is apprehend the faithfulness of Christ by a God given measure of faith imparted by the Holy Spirit upon hearing the gospel proclaimed.

So now comes the second part of the above Proverb; "In all thy ways acknowledge Him." What are all of our ways? The simple answer is in our good ways and in our not so good ways; in our obedience and in our sinfulness. The Proverb has a promise. If we trust in the Lord with all our heart (believe the gospel,) and lean not unto our own understanding (avoid the way which seems right,) in all our ways acknowledge him (no matter what the circumstance know that He will never leave or forsake and is always with us,) then He will direct our paths. That should be a comfort to all!

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Jesus, James, and the Sermon on the Mount.

Jesus amplified the law in the Sermon on the Mount. He pointed out that murder and adultery begin in the heart, and are a heart issue. I believe that the reason Jesus did this was to demonstrate that those Jews who thought themselves blameless by the law were really not blameless. I recently realized that James was using a Jewish hermeneutical device when he spoke of the law in James two. He was referring his readers to the words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. He did this by using murder and adultery as the examples of law breaking. He knew that everyone had an issue with either anger or lust.

Mat 5:21-22  "You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, 'You shall not murder'; and 'whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.'  (22)  But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, 'You fool,' you will be liable to the hell of fire.

Mat 5:27-28  "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery.'  (28)  But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

Jas 2:10-13 NRSV "For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.  (11)  For the one who said, "You shall not commit adultery," also said, "You shall not murder." Now if you do not commit adultery but if you murder, you have become a transgressor of the law.  (12)  So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty.  (13)  For judgment will be without mercy to anyone who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment."

So James begins with the idea that if a person breaks just one commandment they are then guilty of breaking the entire law. For years, I wondered why did he choose murder and adultery as his examples. My thought was that not many people murder or commit adultery and that there would be more universal commandments that most people would be guilty of breaking. Then, I recalled Jesus words in the Sermon on the Mount. He connected anger and murder and lust and adultery. I have for years believed that Jesus was amplifying the law to show that people were not capable of obeying the law, thereby gaining righteousness from the law. Of course, the Apostle Paul plainly stated that no one was capable of establishing their righteousness by the law, and he also stated that as a Pharisee, with regard to the righteousness from the Law he was blameless. He then followed that assertion with this. Php 3:7-9  "Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ.  (8)  More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ  (9)  and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith." 

James addressed his letter to the Jews that were in the dispersion. By that, he meant all of the Torah Observant Jewish Believers that had been carried into captivity at the time of the Babylonian invasion and had remained dispersed and had not returned to Jerusalem or any part of the Israeli homeland. So, in his letter he was reinforcing the teaching that Jesus had given on the mount. This sermon of Jesus' was well known, and often rehearsed orally in their assemblies. And, like Paul, James was explaining the futility of trying to gain right standing with God based on obedience to the law. He uses the law aspects that everyone has problems with. The truth was that they could not even obey the first and greatest commandment, because they could not love with all their heart, mind, strength and soul one that they feared, but that is another post.

As I look closer at this epistle, I am seeing that James is far more graceful than most have been led to believe. He goes on in the above passage to mention the law of liberty. What law is that you may be thinking? The answer is that it is the "law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus." That is simply using the law in a way that sets one free from "the law of sin and death." It is using the law as a tutor to drive one to Christ for righteousness that is based on His faithfulness. Looking into the perfect law of liberty is using the hermeneutic taught by Jesus Himself. It is seeing Jesus, life, and redemption in every passage of scripture (John 5:39-40.) It is seeing the scripture as the testimony of Jesus, the Spirit of ALL prophecy. Read again Paul's words in Philippians three,  and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith." Let me emphasize that Paul is thinking of the justification that comes from the faith/faithfulness of Christ (Gal 2:16.)

We do violence to scripture when we do not consider the grammatical and historical context. Historically one needs to be acutely aware of the intended audience of James' letter. It was to Torah Observant Jews, while the temple still stood that had placed their faith in the faithfulness of Jesus of Nazareth. James goes on in the above passage to remind his readers of the mercies of God. He points out that in God's program mercy triumphs over judgment every time! Think about that will you? God's mercy triumphs over His judgment. How does that work? Simple. Mercy triumphs over judgment because Jesus was triumphant over Satan.

The Gospel and our LGBT Brothers and Sisters

I have neglected writing this for far too long. I guess part of the reason was that I did not want to alienate the part of my readership tha...